King - A Branding Genius?

shaving bond home pageYou would have been hard pressed to get through the weekend papers without escaping any reference to the King. And, I’m not talking about Michael Jackson. Instead, I’m referring to Will King, founder and CEO of King of Shaves. The reason for this is that last week, he launched the Shaving Bond. This is a corporate bond that aims to attract funds for their marketing war chest in their fight against Gillette.

This brand building idea is ingenious on so many levels. So many levels that I’m not quite sure where to start, so in no real order…

A brand you can trust

In the current climate of dishonest and untrustworthy politicians and banks, choosing where to put your money is tricky business. And yet, here is an opportunity to put your money behind one of the fastest growing brands around. Not only that, but Will King is proven when it comes to building assets. After all, he knows how to manage money as he’s built a hugely successful business over the last 16 years. Politicians and banks can’t claim that one very easily. So, in terms of trust, he’s got that one nailed. That’s no mean feat; give the guy some credit.

It’s a win-win!

Will King is predicting that his business will double in the next year. For those of you that struggle with percentages, that’s +100%. So, to offer a +6% return on an investment means that he is going to be quids in. But so are the investors. The majority of investors out there would be hard pressed to find a better return than 6%. Especially one that comes with free King of Shaves products. The free product bit is so neat. For KoS, giving away free product is nothing, but the perceived value to the consumer is massive. Consumers love a bit of FREE.

willI saw King speak recently at the British Library and he was asked how he measured his marketing spend on advertising. The response quite simply was “Sales! We sell loads of product”. King knows that lack of awareness is their biggest barrier. He calls it their “biggest competitor”. So, King knows that if he could just spend more on advertising, then sales will follow. The problem is, he needs to the cash. So, what are his options?

Get your customers to pay for it!

Well why not? Most brands pay for their marketing through their premium prices. Taking this route allows King of Shaves to keep their prices competitive during these “tough times” while offering consumers a return in more ways than one. I also think that the transparency is going to be respected. They’re quite blatant in telling us that they’ll spend the money on marketing and advertising. And so, consumers get to choose as to whether they take part in this. You don’t get that choice with many other brands. You pay or go elsewhere.

Now, back to the lack of awareness issue. What better way round this than to get your name out there? Mmmm… now let’s think, how could he do this. Well, you could try and pull a big PR stunt that gets you into all the papers.

A PR stunt?

the-sun-230609The press coverage for the Shaving Bond has been pretty impressive. Oh sure, it helps that they’ve been spending a little cash on advertising, but nonetheless. To secure coverage in wide ranging publications like The Sun, The Times, Brand Republic, Management Today and Marketing Week makes for a great PR stunt. The value of the PR alone will make this exercise worth it, even if no-one signs up. But, the reach achieved with this coverage would probably surpass anything they could hope to pull off with any ad campaign. And that coverage was despite the other “King” that hit the news this week.

Consistency of message

I can’t help admire the PR aspect of this initiative. Having worked on PR stunt campaigns, I know how hard it can be to ensure that when your story gets out there, the journalists are saying the right thing, consistently. After all, you have no editorial control. But, for this campaign, the message that keeps coming through is “It’s not just a better way to shave, it’s a better way to save”. And that comes straight from King himself. Great brands are built on consistency, and these guys clearly know what they’re doing.

And finally…

What a great name!

This name is a marketer’s dream. It’s just so perfect! I won’t go on as Shaving Bond speaks for itself.

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Are brands brave enough to embrace social media?

Social media, while it’s been around for a bit now, is still not being truly embraced by brands. The beauty of social media is the decentralisation of the source of the message. Now we all have a voice, and it’s just as relevant and important as the next person’s. So for brands, who are used to being in control of the messages about their brand, that time is over.

Brand owners know all about brand perception. Brand perception is what consumers think about the brand. When a gap exists between where the brand thinks they are and where they really are, there’s a bit of work to do. But in the old days, this was relatively easy. You took out a few ads, used a great PR agency and before long, shifts occurred in the brand image.

But now, there are a whole heap of conversations going on about brands in places they don’t even know about. Sure, they have their own website that pushes out the brand message, but that’s the last place that consumers come to. Typically, Google is where it all starts and the corporate website is where it ends. What happens in between is what is going to determine whether that final visit leads to a sale.

So, why don’t brands get more involved with all that stuff that happens in between? The forums, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook… Do brands even know where the conversations are happening?

The truth is that brands are scared. Most are still trying to work out whether social media is here to stay, while the rest are still working out what it is and how to use it. How many people have you heard say “I just don’t get Twitter”?

In a recent Brand Republic article the top 100 brands mentioned on Twitter were mentioned alongside whether or not they had a presence on Twitter. Less than half of them have a Twitter account. So brands like Gillette, Audi, L’Oreal, Cadbury’s, Tesco, Coca-Cola and Apple are NOT participating in the conversation about their brands. This is the space where decisions are made about brands and it seems like the big guys are getting a bit complacent.

Last year I spent some time with the CEO of Bazaarvoice. These guys are all about making the most out of UGC (user generated content) and using it to drive sales. So if you sell from your website they help you to incorporate UGC to offer a fuller picture to the consumer helping them to make a balanced decision. They can demonstrate that a selection of balanced reviews will sell you more products, even if that selection includes poor reviews.

It makes sense. Consumers are going to seek out those balanced reviews before purchasing, so you may as well put them on your site. Stops them leaving in the first place and buying elsewhere.

So, if we know there’s a conversation taking place out there somewhere between Google and the corporate site, why not encourage some of that conversation to take place ON the corporate site? There is an article that has a clear view about this and it encourages brands to develop their website with their consumers. Instead of being me-me-me, make the website about them and their experiences with the brand. Invite testimonials, good and bad, and create a community. This may all sound like a step too far for some brands. But what the bigger brands need to realise, is that smaller brands are happy jump in here, as it’s their competitive edge.

And who knows, these little guys could be the big brands of tomorrow.

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The 5 perils of personal branding

We can safely say that when the topic of personal branding comes up that most people would agree that it’s a good thing, and if they had the time or inclination, they would probably get round to sorting out their personal brand.

But, is it? Are there any perils with starting such a journey? There are a lot of things in life that start out as a good idea that turn out to be a monumental disaster. Like putting up your party pics on facebook, only to discover that a director at work has seen them and now you’re not getting that promotion. Doh! Now I’m not saying that developing your personal brand is in that league, far from it. But what I am saying is that there are considerations, and you should be aware of them before you jump in.

High visibility high_vis_jacket

Remember the whole point behind personal branding. It’s to stand out and be noticed. You want work to come to you, and not vice versa. But, raising your visibility stakes means, you guessed it - you’re going to get noticed! So, are you happy with that? You may be some quiet shrew who’s damn good at what you do, but you prefer to hide behind your desk. Imagine spending the day wearing a high-vis jacket, does that sit well with you? And, more importantly, can you keep it up?

Transparency

glass-of-water

Developing your personal brand is a beautiful process of self-discovery. For a truly authentic personal brand, you’ll need to work out who you are and what you stand for. Then, you’ll need to be that and stand for it consistently. If you don’t, you’ll be betraying your brand (otherwise known as brand suicide). Some personal branders talk about persona being a crucial part of the personal branding equation. I think this wrongly creates the impression that you have a “persona” and a “real you”. By the way, if you look up persona you’ll get words like role, character, mask, actor etc. These are not words that talk about transparency and authenticity.

Accountability

Devising and launching your personal brand is a big step. It’s a sign you mean business. As a part of the process you would have identified personal goals and ambitions. After all, your brand will be there to support you in achieving these. So, now you’ve put your stake in the sand, you’ve got to be seen to be delivering. You’re accountable. Are you ready to be accountable?

Keeping it up

man_lift_weightsThe need for consistency cannot be underestimated. As with business brands, a personal brand needs to be reinforced and maintained. Consistently, both in terms of the message that you’re putting out there and the regularity by which you deliver that message. It’s hard work. It’s called brand management not brand laissez faire for a reason.

Conflict with employer

Now, for some this is not relevant. But for bundles of you it is. How does your brand fit your employer’s brand. If you’re all about the outdoors, high energy, risk taking, and you work in an accountant’s firm, there might be a slight mismatch. Some companies will only be interested in you being an employee if you reflect the corporate brand. While other businesses may be up for allowing you to be YOU. So, beware of being authentic too soon as it might put you out of a job!

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Branding is more than just a logo. Or is it?

As someone who has worked with brands for many years, I understand that branding is more than a logo. But, let’s pretend for a minute that we’ve forgotten what branding is and we think that the brand IS the logo. Where would that take us?

Consider these scenarios:

Nike launches a range of shoes and clothing with no visible branding. The same performance and technology will be present, as that is what Nike is all about. Right? I wonder how they would sell.

Or.

my-vuitton-is-a-fakeA girl buys a fake Louis Vuitton handbag because she just loves the brown beige print pattern. What is she buying? She’s certainly bought into the brand, but is not consuming the brand in the traditional sense. One could argue that she’s buying the logo, the pattern.

Or.

quarter_pounder_1xyz1The McDonalds venture in Japan where they have created a no-brand outlet. The Quarter Pounder stores in Tokyo have no golden arches and no clown and the menu is limited to one of two items; Quarter Pounder with Cheese or Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

menu_mcdimg_assist_custom This is interesting move by McDonalds created a bit of a buzz late last year when they launched. But, what is even more interesting is the fact that since its launch, the website has now been changed and is now adorned with the golden arches. They couldn’t resist getting their branding assets in there.

After all, the brand is the logo. Right?

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